Book Review: Religion and Canadian Party Politics

By Joe Gunn

From the Catalyst, Summer 2018

Religion and Canadian Party Politics

By David Rayside, Jerald Sabin and Paul E.J. Thomas

UBC Press, 2017

Reviewed by Joe Gunn

Is faith still a factor in Canadians’ voting patterns, and the activity of Canadian political parties?

The three academics who wrote this book were particularly focussed on the power of “moral traditionalists.” Unfortunately, what progressive movements of faithful Christians contributed to Canadian public policy remains of less interest.

As religious affiliation decreases, and Canada’s population grows more diverse, these authors argue that religious conservatism has become a diminished, but not inconsequential, force, across all the provinces and territories.

In earlier Canadian history, electoral preferences and party affiliation were often based on the sectarian divisions between Catholics and Protestants. Today, we are told, this has all but disappeared from the Canadian landscape. What still matters is evangelical affiliation, which aligns with parties on the right, especially in western Canada and Ontario.

The authors describe in detail the faith-based advocacy and political conflict over abortion issues, describing these as “now politically settled.” However, there are still “hot” questions regularly raised around gender diversity, sexual health education in school curricula, and, more recently, debates about accommodations to adherents of Islam and the wearing of religious garb.

Whereas moral traditionalists consistently raise contentious issues, this study concludes by noting the “recognition among parties that developing high-profile policy commitments reflective of the preferences of moral traditionalists loses more votes than it gains.”

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